Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Monday, June 29, 2020


As it stands right now our club cannot operate in our normal way.  Covid restrictions are one problem and the current situation of the VTA suspending insurance for our hikes and/or hike leaders is the other.
Therefore our club cannot run any hikes AS A CLUB.
So what can people do right now to hike with friends? According to the city, anyone can organize a group (max 10) of friends and hike with physical distancing.  Our suggestion is to call, email, text or whatever to put together a group to go out on the trails.  If you feel you don’t know your hiking friends well enough to pull a group together, send an email to elhiking@gmail.com giving your name and when we hear of someone putting a group together you could be included.  

Sunday, June 28, 2020


Hi all.  Donna Condon has been working dilligently to get answers from the VTA about starting up our hikes including insurance for hike leaders.  The attached is the latest she has received. 

Hi Donna

Sanctioned VTA outings are still on hold...but I know a lot of VTA members in the Sault area are getting together for outings informally..they have been going kayaking, canoeing and hiking...but doing it outside the VTA structure..They just organize things by phone or email and head out twice a week. I believe there is no car pooling. 

No VTA waiver is signed...I have not advertised any outings...but the fun continues...

That is one way around it.

Mark C
VTA VP Central
President, Saulteaux 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020


Here is the response from the city regarding CdeB hikes...

Deborah Brandow

Tue, Jun 23, 10:12 AM (22 hours ago)

Hi David,

There are no concerns from the City about CdB hiking in groups of 10 or less with social distancing protocols in place.

Happy hiking!

Thursday, May 28, 2020


Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, May 27th 2020 - The Voyageur Trails Association today announced that it will be undertaking a considerable social media campaign in response to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s implementation of an amendment to Ontario Regulation 665/98 (Hunting) which took effect for the 2020 Bear Hunting season and which reduces the minimum distance requirement for placement of bait near rights of way and trails for black bear hunting from 200m to 30m. The aim of the social media campaign is to ensure safe trail access for all user groups, including encouraging all trail users to wear blaze orange until the Spring bear hunt ends on June 15th, 2020. The campaign will also address how to respond to bear encounters on or near the trail and calls on the Ministry to review its decision based on a lack of stakeholder consultation.

The Ontario Government made the decision to implement the proposed revision to the Regulation after the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry posted the proposal on the Environmental Registry for a 47-day comment period (May 1st through June 17th, 2019) in which over 600 members of the public responded. While responses from the public were varied, there is no evidence of wider stakeholder engagement with hiking organization like the Voyageur Trails Association.

As a trails organization with membership spanning from Sudbury to Thunder Bay, the Voyageur Trail Association objects to the lack of initial consultation as well as the lack of notification regarding implementation of the amendment on the grounds of concerns for public safety. While the VTA recognizes that the environmental impacts of this change are expected to be neutral, this decision presents a real and considerable risk of both negative human-wildlife interactions and negative interactions amongst user groups. 

“It is very concerning to think that unknowing hikers may encounter bears or hunters on or near our trails because of the increased proximity of bait. Without sufficient warning, these individuals are at increased risk of being mauled or otherwise attacked by a bear. Furthermore, many are unaware of the increased need to wear blaze orange or other high-visibility apparel due to the increased closeness of hunters” said Mark Crofts, President of the Saulteaux Voyageur Trail Club and VP Central with the Voyageur Trails Association’s Coordinating Council.

These risks are heightened due to COVID-19. “With public health advocates encouraging people to combat the mental health challenges of social or physical distancing by taking walks in nature, we are fielding a higher than normal number of inquiries from novice hikers seeking advice on accessing our trails” said Kelsey Johansen, Social Media Coordinator for the Voyageur Trail Association. “These hikers have limited knowledge of the trails or of bush craft, so the risk of negative human-bear or hiker-hunter interactions increases, contributing to the need for our social media campaign” she added.

Furthermore, with organizations like Ontario Parks and conservation authorities limiting access to user amenities like washrooms to limit COVID-19 exposure risks in high contact areas, trail users are being asked to practice Leave No Trace Principles and find safe places to take care of personal hygiene in the bush. “Leave No Trace is a set of 7 Principles that aim to ensure outdoorsperson’s limit the environmental impacts of their presence in natural areas. Leave No Trace Principles require trail users to dig catholes and otherwise engage in toileting practices a minimum of 60m from a trail, waterway, parking lot, etc. As such, hikers are likely to leave the trail and travel a minimum of 60 meters on either side of the trail in order to relieve themselves. This puts them at risk of encountering: bears, bear bait, and hunters and is an unacceptable risk” said Dr. Harvey Lemelin, a Professor in the School of Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism at Lakehead University and the Voyageur Trail Association’s Trail Master. Lemelin’s extensive research on bear and human interactions and human dimensions of parks management dates to 1997. Since joining Lakehead University’s faculty in 2004, he has led considerable backcountry hiking, biking and fat biking educational expeditions for students, and has worked extensively with communities to draft codes of conduct for trail users seeking permission to access Indigenous lands.

Considering these risks, the Voyageur Trails Association’s Coordinating Council proposes that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry implement a two-year trial period in which the minimum distance requirement for placement of bait near rights of way and trails for black bear hunting is set at 100m and that they provide signage for display at trailheads to advise hikers of the change in regulation. Furthermore, the Coordinating Council encourages the Ministry to engage in public consultation with organizations like the Voyageur Trail Association and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, the Ontario Trails Council and Hike Ontario to study the impact of this decision on all user groups.

Friday, May 22, 2020


VTA responds to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis
During the Covid-19 crisis the VTA has suspended all sanctioned hikes across the organization. It looks like this will be the case for most of this hiking season. This doesn’t mean that the trails aren’t being cleared, but it does mean that the process will take longer and that some remote areas may not see any attention in the foreseeable future. 
Across the Association there is usually a Spring Sweep organized by each Club as conditions permit. On the Casque Isles we will usually have 20 or 30 volunteers and Club members go out on a weekend and clear the trail from end to end. It would be irresponsible at this point for us to advocate for the status quo this year. Singularly or in small groups of 2-4 people we have been hiking and clearing the trail of deadfalls and encroaching brush. This has enabled us to control the group size and to maintain responsible social distancing guidelines. 
In chatting with our Club members I am reminded of the passion that our volunteers have for maintaining these hiking corridors and that as avid hikers we all have this overwhelming urge to just be out there experiencing the outdoors. As the schools remained closed, many parents that I talked to have told me that they are using our local trails more than ever. Because so many recreational activities have been curtailed they are going out as a small family group to let the children explore, fish, climb hills or just relax by a creek or river and watch as the forest comes alive in the spring. So, it turns out that we need our trails more than ever. We just have to be careful, act responsibly, and follow a few guidelines. 
All VTA trails have always been “use at your own risk”. You can expect to find deadfalls in the back country and those trails may be obscured by encroaching brush. Streams may have to be waded seasonally or after a rain event. You must be prepared to be self-sufficient in case of an incident and cell service cannot be counted on. The Casque Isles Trail is classified as difficult, but that doesn’t mean that every part of it is extreme. This just means that to get to the more moderate sections you will have to climb some steep hills, wade those streams, walk on uneven terrain and pay attention to the markings. These same conditions apply to many of the other Club trails within the VTA. 
Many portions of the VTA trails have yet to be cleared, especially remote areas. Here are some guidelines to follow if you choose to use our trails;
  • You are using our trails at your own risk.
  • If you are sick or have been exposed to Covid-19 stay at home and isolate.
  • Keep your groups small and limit carpooling to family units.
  • Pay attention at parking areas where there may be more people around. Many amenities, such as washrooms or picnic tables, have not been regularly sanitized so bring appropriate cleaning supplies. Handrails on walkways have not been sanitized, watch that group members do not touch them. 
  • Almost all of the VTA trails are single track. Practice social distancing guidelines while using the trails. Be prepared to step aside when meeting others, even if this means you have to back track a little. 
  • Crown land camping is still not allowed, plan all of your excursions as day trips. Consult local Clubs for more information on trail distances and entry/exit points. 
By all means, get out and enjoy the outdoors. The conditions are prime in our area, and the bugs are coming. I wonder if we could teach them about social distancing? Please remember that as the Province loosens restrictions this doesn’t mean a return to full normal. We still have to maintain proper Covid-19 etiquette, indeed this may be our new normal for the near future. 
We’ll be seeing you on the trails. 
Matt Borutski
VTA Vice President West
Casque Isles President

Thursday, May 21, 2020


A beautiful trail clearing day... group 1, started at the ski hill and followed the Paul Echle trail around Westnor lake to the bottom of the tower hill... the good group started at the tower and came down the VTA trail to meet up with first group... trail was in fairly good condition, new signs were posted on the upper stretch, black flies were hungry, birds advertising, woodpeckers keeping time, groans and wheezes coming back up the hill... all sure signs of spring...Anyone wanting to join in contact Gerry or Nicky...  cheers
Commentary by Dave

Wednesday, May 20, 2020


Three hiked to Hope Lake this morning... 20k south of town, 5.550 steps each way... we saw small blue, and mourning cloak butterflies, frogs, toads and three garter snakes from 6 inches to 24 inches... trees are in full bud, solomen seal are up, may flowers out, many moose and bear tracks along the road, extra high beaver dam, (over 6 feet) and warm as a summer day... there were even 5 or six blackflies..(thousand)
Parking off the highway 20k south of town on left.. (East) side. Logging road about 4k .. ATV trail to the right just as the road takes a sharp left.leads into the lake... 11k in total out and back, pretty level... good hike


Wednesday, May 13, 2020


Spring bear hunt is on until June 15th, wear orange! I walked into an active bear bait/stand 100 ft (legal) due north of the Slipper Lake boat launch yesterday. Please avoid bear bait trail from the ATV path running north, off All Nations Rd. to 100 ft west of the Slipper Lake boat launch, until  June 16th. 

Thanks to Jim B 

Tuesday, May 12, 2020


With some restrictions being lifted and the parks opening up for day use, we have the permission to begin some trail clearing. Because social distancing regulations are still in place, we have been advised that only small groups can be sent out at one time. We will therefore create a list of volunteers and a rotating schedule to give everyone the opportunity to be included in trail clearing. If you are interested in helping out please call Jim/Sue 705-848-6035 at or Gerry/Nickie at 705-461-6304.